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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

OUTOKUMPU SX EW TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE

Raimo Kuusisto
Outokumpu Technology Oy, Metals Processing, Hydrometallurgy
Pertti Pekkala
Outokumpu Technology Oy, Metals Processing, Hydrometallurgy
George J. Karcas
Outokumpu Technology Oy, Metals Processing, Hydrometallurgy

ABSTRACT

Ongoing Outokumpu development in Solvent Extraction and Electrowinning Technology,


involving all aspects of process chemistry, equipment and control, extends over a period of
close to 30 years. The development in SX started with molybdenum and rhenium,
continued with zinc, manganese, cobalt and nickel and is now focusing on copper. The
OutoCompact VSF SX concept, which has been recently introduced, is a honed version
of earlier VSF technology.
The Outokumpu VSF ("Vertical Smooth Flow") SX package includes the DOP
("Dispersion Overflow Pump") units, the Spirok Mixers, the OutoCompact Settlers
including
their DDG ("Dispersion Depletor Gate") fences and tank farm equipment such as the LOS
("Loaded Organic Scrubbing") tank as well as the CEP ("Copper Electrolyte Purifying")
tank.
Although the VSF SX package can be implemented according to several optional layouts, the so-called Track version has lately been introduced to the advantage of new plants.
The new OutoCompact SX technology decreases the footprint of future VSF plants. The
lay-out, including plant size flexibility, have further been improved by Outokumpus new
OutoReverse settler technology. Two of several SX plants currently under construction
rely on reverse settlers in order to maximize their performance.
The Outokumpu EW technology includes process know-how as well as proprietary
equipment. The copper EW package consists of permanent stainless steel cathodes based
on wax-less technology and lead anodes utilising polymer concrete cells with the double
contact bus bar system and ventilation hoods fitted for efficient mist control. The lifting of
cell hoods, as well as cathode washing, is done by the cathode pulling crane. Proper
electrolyte flows and matching current density further ensure high productivity of LME
grade copper cathodes.

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

INTRODUCTION
The Outokumpu Technology Solvent Extraction and Electrowinning packages combine
Basic Engineering, Integrated Proprietary Equipment, and Supervision Services with
Process Guarantees, as well as the possibility of Copper Off Take Agreements.
Outokumpus proven track record in SX EW, offering technically advanced equipment,
which renders optimal operation at all stages of the process, gives the operator the ability
to maximize the benefits while minimizing operational costs.
VERTICAL SMOOTH FLOW TECHNOLOGY
The Vertical Smooth Flow (VSF) Solvent Extraction Technology Package is predominant
in North and South America, accounting for over 25% of the worlds Copper SX capacity.
New applications are being commissioned in Laos and Mexico during the 2005 calendar
year.
Solvent Extraction is a frequently used unit process in Outokumpu hydrometallurgical
operations. Twelve out of nineteen SX processes in our reference list (1) are or have been
in use in Finland. A constant pursuit of better SX performance has resulted in an
uninterrupted development work covering all aspects of the SX processes. In the early 90s
the accumulated SX know-how had already passed a level, after which the keystone ideas
of uniform mixing and low shear pumping could be realized. The first SX processes to use
mixer-settlers relying on, what is nowadays known as Spirok mixing and DOP pumping,
were a cobalt/magnesium circuit and a nickel circuit. Since that time, four more VSF SX
plants have been built in Finland including one large plant for cobalt recovery and a very
compact one for copper.
Simultaneously with the SX progress in Finland, the VSF concept was introduced for large
copper SX plants like Zaldvar and Radomiro Tomic in Chile and Morenci in USA. This
development has now resulted in the OutoCompact Copper SX focusing on economical
key items impacting on stable copper cathode production, efficient space utilization and
top-level operational performance. A glimpse of how our cobalt and copper SX
developments interrelate with each other can be obtained from Figure 1 showing a typical
OutoCompact cobalt mixer-settler and its counterpart for copper, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1 - OutoCompact Cobalt Mixer-Settler


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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 2 - OutoCompact Copper Mixer-Settler


VSF Technology separates the pumping and mixing functions by executing them in
separate units. This allows the operator to simultaneously maintain optimum conditions for
mixing and pumping ensuring that the process is not compromised. The mixing intensity is
kept at the optimum level and pumping is controlled to achieve low head conditions, which
together with horizontal pipe runs minimises high shear forces, restrains organic phase
oxidation, and ensures low operating costs and flexibility in achieving the maximum
allowable flow rate of the pregnant leach solution.
The 3D - Deep Dense Dispersion settler design, coupled with the VSF pumping and
mixing technology results in high specific settler throughput with low organic entrainment.
VSF operators have reported the mean annual O/A entrainments in the Raffinate and Rich
Electrolyte of typically being less than 15 ppm.
Outokumpus proprietary DDG - Dispersion Depletor Gate picket fence design ensures
that a thick and dense dispersion layer is predominant in the front end of the settler. This
dispersion band allows for the filtration of small droplets, hence, ensuring low entrainment
values. Due to the settler and picket fence design, the dispersion cannot spread to the
discharge end of the settler, hence allowing for good flow capacity flexibility.
It is interesting to note that both Spirok mixers and the DOP unit are in-built in the settler
tank in an OutoCompact cobalt mixer-settler. The compactness and its benefits become
obvious by considering the present specific settling rate in the settler, ranging between 8 14 m3/h/m2. Due to the location of the DOP, the mixers are on the same side of the line of

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

mixer-settlers. This gives a process designer additional freedom to create advantageous


layout alternatives, similar to those of plants using reverse flow mixer-settlers.
In large copper SX plants the DOP units and the mixer tanks have to be built outside the
settler basin for size constraint reasons. A large copper SX plant treating a total solution
flow close to 5000 m3/h is relying on a DOP unit with a diameter of about 6000 mm,
whereas a relatively large cobalt SX plant seldom even requires a DOP close to 2000 mm.
A common feature of both copper and cobalt SX plants is the compact settler design using
intensified phase separation. A combination of proper settler depth, a guiding inlet fence,
and sets of Dispersion Depletor Gates (DDGs) have proved to be very successful
compacting tools. The thickness and the level of the dispersion bands are predetermined by
the settler design itself. Of course the dispersion bands are only fully developed provided
the plant flows exceed prerequisite flows.
The Outokumpu SX Technology Package also features a loaded organic (LO) tank design
with proprietary scrub solution circulation and coalescing fences. The Outokumpu layout
configuration places the LO tank, which also requires less excavation work than
conventional designs, in the center area of the SX plant in order to minimize organic
inventory.
The transfer of impurities to the electrolyte circuit is minimized with the VSF Technology
due to:

Separate pumping and mixing, which prevent the formation of extra fine droplets.
Capturing of occasional high Rich Electrolyte O/A entrainments, caused, for
example through operator error, by the Rich Electrolyte After Settler.
Efficient washing of any remaining aqueous entrainment with a combination
washing mixer-settler and a scrubber type LO-tank.

The VSF mixer settlers are also efficient coalescers, actually performing better than
commercial coalescers, hence, eliminating the need for additional coalescers.

Figure 3 Outokumpu VSF Solvent Extraction Plant


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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

VSF SOLVENT EXTRACTION PROPRIETARY EQUIPMENT


The main equipment that the Outokumpu VSF Technology package consists of, are the
Dispersion Overflow Pump (DOP), the SPIROK mixer, and the Outocompact settler.
DOP Pumping Unit
The main advantage of the VSF technology is that it separates pumping and mixing in
order to ensure low entrainment losses because it is possible to constantly control and
maintain the mixing intensity at the optimum level, regardless of whether the PLS flow
rate has to rise above the design value or is not stable.
The DOP unit Dispersion Overflow Pump consists of a suction cylinder with a conical
overflow rim, a turbine, a flow stabilizer and a baffled cylindrical outer tank (Figure 4).

Flow
Stabilizer

Turbine
Conical
Overflow
Rim

Suction
Cylinder

Figure 4 Dispersion Overflow Pump (DOP) Unit


The DOPs operating philosophy is based on utilising a relatively large slow speed turbine,
and on minimizing pressure losses in the VSF system, with for example, the use of
horizontal settler outlets.
The first mixing contact between the aqueous and the organic solutions occurs in the
turbine casing, where the chemical mass-transfer reactions start immediately and
vigorously. A typical retention time in the turbine casing is 3-5 seconds, whereas in the
outer tank it is close to half a minute. The mixing intensity in the outer tank matches that of
the main mixers hence allowing optimal mixing. Thanks to this very short retention time in
the turbine casing, and a low tip speed, the crud formation in the VSF units can be kept
astonishingly low, especially when treating PLS which contains high iron.
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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

SPIROK Mixing Unit


The Spirok mixers are designed to provide gentle and uniform mixing at a rate that results
in proper dispersion formation giving the appropriate mass transfer rate. Low shear mixing
in combination with an organic continuous dispersion mode that contains a high hold-up of
aqueous drops (O/A 0.7-0.9), has proven to be a very efficient way of improving the
entrainment and crud situation.
The VSF mixing unit (Figure 5) consists of two cylindrical baffled mixer tanks equipped
with double helical Spirok stirrers and an uptake channel, the latter connecting the last
mixer tank with the settler. The dip cover structure of the mixer tank prevents air from
entering into the dispersion.

Uptake
Channel

Cover

Cylindrical
Mixing
Tank

Spirok
Stirrer

Figure 5 Vertical Smooth Flow (VSF) Mixing Unit

OutoCompact Settling Unit


Settler design is a critical factor in solvent extraction plant operation. The OutoCompact
settler is based on the concept of having a deep, dense and thick dispersion layer at the feed
side of the settler.
The incoming dispersion flow is distributed evenly with the flow distributor and one nonjetting picket fence. The dispersion is then kept in a compressed state with three DDG
fences. The dense dispersion layer filtrates small droplets and enhances coalescence,
ensuring low entrainment values. It is important to note that more flexibility to handle
higher feed flow rates is achieved when the dispersion is not allowed to spread over the
whole settling area. Separated organic and aqueous solutions are finally collected into

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

launders. The aqueous inner circulation is taken from the settler bulk. The settler design is
presented in figures 6, 7, and 8.

11- 5-1999 10:04:34 / Tulostaja: lyyraju

Figure 6 VSF mixer settler

Figure 7 - OutoCompact Copper Mixer-Settler Picket Fence and Dispersion Profile

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 8 - OutoCompact Copper Mixer-Settler Picket Fence Design

Outokumpu Electrowinning Technology


Outokumpus electrowinning technology is based on its own stainless steel permanent
cathode production concept, utilizing widely utilized and proven proprietary tankhouse
equipment. The Outokumpu electrowinning process, in its entirety, utilizes cell size up to
84 cathodes per cell, allowing for more operating efficiency and reduced tankhouse foot
print area. The first plant utilizing this concept was started up in 2001 at OMG Kokkola
Chemicals in Finland. New plants to be commissioned are in Laos, Mexico and Russia
The Outokumpu electrowinning technology package includes the following proprietary
design equipment:

Full Deposit Stripping Machine with wide range of manual or automated options
Stainless Steel Permanent Cathodes
Lead - Anodes
Double Contact Bus Bar System
Crane and Bale with integrated electrode washing system
Polymer concrete electrolytic cells with up to 84 cathodes per cell
Acid Mist Capture System

A brief description of the Outokumpu tankhouse technology package equipment follows

Page 328

The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 9 Outokumpu Electrowinning Plant

Full Deposit Stripping Machine


Outokumpus full deposit stripping machine features either non flex or flex stripping. The
non flexing approach is applicable in conjunction with Outokumpus Acid Mist Capture
System, or any other system that does not utilise de-mister balls, while the flexing
approach can be applied in all cases. This is due to the fact that de-mister balls result in a
rounded copper deposit at the top of the cathode, making it difficult for a knife to make the
initial penetration. Outokumpus proprietary flexing method, in comparison with previous
methods, extends the life of both stainless steel blanks and edge strips by executing the flex
very gently and by minimising the flexing distance.
The Outokumpu full deposit stripping machine can produce either separate cathodes or
TACO cathodes, which are connected at the bottom. In either case, it is done without
waxing the bottom of the blanks and with only side edge strips. The capacity of the
Outokumpu full deposit stripping machine can be customised according to the
requirements of the operation. and it can be on a manual, semi- automatic or fully
automatic basis.

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Additional benefits of mechanised stripping are that the Outokumpu full deposit stripping
machine can physically sort higher and lower quality deposits into separate stacks without
requiring manual intervention. It can also execute automatic or manual sampling,
corrugating, weighing, marking, labelling, and strapping.

Figure 10 Outokumpu Full Deposit Stripping Machine


Stainless Steel Permanent Cathodes
The Outokumpu permanent cathode is made of AISI 316L stainless steel and has a plating
area of approximately 1.0 m2 per side. The hanger bar is constructed by metallurgically
joining a large solid copper cross section into a stainless steel tube. Only the tips of the
hanger bar expose the copper at the position where contact will be made with the copper
bus bar. The stainless steel tube is laser welded to the plate. This construction results in
low electrical losses throughout the entire life of the cathode with high mechanical
strength, hence no bending over time, high dimensional accuracy and virtually no
deterioration of the copper cross section over time. Furthermore, as there are only stainless
to stainless welds between the bar and the plate, there is a high resistance against
corrosion, even when the electrodes are below the ventilation hoods. A very important
advantage of Outokumpu permanent cathodes is that the hanger bar can be removed and
utilized on a new plate in the case of damage to the plate, or replacement at the end of the
plates useful life.

Page 330

The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

The Outokumpu permanent cathode comes equipped with a-strong integrated edge strip,
made from HDPE, which is effectively extruded onto the cathode, giving a much longer
life than other technologies.

Figure 11 Outokumpu Stainless Steel Permanent Cathode


Lead Anodes
Outokumpus tankhouse technology includes permanent lead anodes, made from a cold
rolled alloy of lead, calcium and tin, with a blade thickness of typically 6 mm, designed to
suit the Outokumpu cell design, bus bars, cathodes and handling equipment. The anodes
are equipped with plastic insulators in order to prevent electrical contact with cathodes.
The suspension bar of the Outokumpu tankhouse technology anodes is made with a
straight and solid copper bar, with copper exposed only at the ends. The separators at the
suspension bar of the anodes are designed to act as lifting hooks as well, while the bottom
separators are designed to fit with the Outokumpu permanent cathode.

Page 331

The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 12 Outokumpu EW Process Lead Anode


Double Contact Busbar System
Outokumpu Technology has developed the Double Contact Bus Bar System, which
effectively makes bus bar contact with both sides of each anode and cathode. This is done
with the use of an equaliser bar on each side for each electrode, which effectively picks up
any stray current from the hanger bar and distributes it to all electrodes over the entire cell
length.
The Outokumpu Double Contact Inter-cell Bus bar Assembly consists of one main intercell bus bar, two equalizing bus bars, one main insulator, and one auxiliary insulator. The
bus bars are made of oxygen free copper and all insulators of high quality Fiberglas
reinforced vinyl ester resin, specially designed for electrical purposes.
The Outokumpu double contact bus bar system results in even current distribution
throughout the cell length, less short circuits, longer permanent anode life, and better
cathode quality, having less lead and sulphur, even weight distribution, and above all,
lower electrical energy consumption.

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 13 Outokumpu Double Contact Bus Bar System


Tankhouse Crane and Bale
The Outokumpu electrowinning plants material handling system can either be based on a
fully automatic crane and bale, or a manual crane and bale, extracting every second
cathode at a time. The electrode bale has mechanical aligning combs, mounted on both
sides on the bottom part of the guide frame in order to ensure that the cathodes do not hit
each other during crane movements and that they are safely inserted between anodes when
placed into cells. The system is provided with a washing system (tank pump piping
nozzles), which enables excellent and constant chemical quality of produced copper
cathodes. The crane is a heavy-duty industrial overhead bridge crane designed specifically
for the conditions of the tankhouse

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Figure 14 Outokumpu Tankhouse Crane and Bale


Electrowinning Cells
The electrowinning cells are made of polymer concrete and are equipped with an
electrolyte inlet manifold and an overflow box, holes for crane bale positioning, and an
acid mist capture system integrated into the cell body. These electrolytic cells are specially
designed for the copper electrowinning process. The benefits of polymer concrete cells are
well known, from simple and easy installation and lower maintenance costs.
The Outokumpu electrowinning plant assumes typically an 84 cathode cell, which ensures
efficient materials and hood handling and smaller tankhouse foot print. The technology can
also be applied to systems with smaller cells.

Acid Mist Capture System


In order to capture all evolving harmful emissions from electrolytic cells, such as sulphuric acid mist, Outokumpu has developed its Acid Mist Capture System where the
cells are covered with acid mist collection hoods and the off-gases are transferred into a
wet-scrubber system that removes practically all acid from the evolving gases. The
recovered acid is returned back into the process.
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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

This reduces the risk of corrosion, both inside and outside the tankhouse, and the capacity
and the cost of the general ventilation system can be considerably less when compared to
conventional systems. This system eliminates the need for balls or foam on the surface of
the electrolyte, simplifying drastically the everyday plant operation. Sulphuric acid
consumption is minimized as it can be recycled. No gas masks are required in the cell aisle
and health and safety requirements are fulfilled in all countries throughout the world.

Figure 15 Outokumpu Acid Mist capture System

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The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy


Base Metals
Raimo Kuusisto, Pertti Pekkala and George J. Karcas

The Third Southern African Conference on

Electrolytic Cells with Hoods


including:
Transformer-Rectifier to convert AC to DC
current
Electrodes:
- Permanent Cathodes
- Lead anodes

Crane and Bale

Busbar System for DC current

Off-gas Scrubbers and fans for acid


mist capture
Basic and Detailed Engineering,
Installation-, Start-up Supervision
and Training
Full Deposit Stripping Machine

Pumps, Tanks, Piping, Ducting and


Field Instruments

Figure 16 Outokumpu Tankhouse Technology Package


Conclusion
Outokumpus Solvent Extraction Technology provides the operator with the ability to
maximise the output of the plant while minimising organic entrainments and losses. The
ability to control, and optimise, pumping and mixing separately renders the operation to
perform effectively and efficient.
Outokumpus experience in cathode stripping has gained it the respect of its peers. With
flexing that minimises the impact, it can extend the life of the stainless steel blank and
edge strip, thereby minimising operating costs and maximising throughput. Outokumpus
permanent cathodes allow for easier and more effective operation of the tankhouse.
Minimum voltage losses, enhanced by the double contact bus bar system ensures that
current is evenly distributed along the cell without stray currents, resulting in a uniform
cathode weight across the cell. The above factors all ensure maximum current efficiency
and minimum energy consumption.
Finally, Outokumpus acid mist capture system effectively renders the electrowinning
environment free of acid mist.

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